The U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania had hardly made news — until Bob Casey Jr.'s campaign aired an ad slamming opponent Lou Barletta for his stance on preexisting conditions that featured sick children. Barletta, who has a young grandson with cancer, took offense, and Casey ended up apologizing and withdrawing the ad.
Generally, though, it's been a quiet race, with polls showing Casey leading by an average of 16 points over former Hazleton mayor and current U.S. Rep. Barletta.
Even a Trump rally for Barletta and an Obama-Biden rally for Casey weren't able to make this race exciting to either base.
But this doesn't mean that the race isn't important. In fact, the stakes are high, and not only on issues such as immigration and health care. As we saw during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, the Senate is highly partisan and polarized. In this environment, one vote can make a big difference. The question is: Who will get that power from Pennsylvania?
Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat, represents a dying breed of centrist politicians — although on certain issues, such as guns and same-sex marriage, he has moved leftward. And in the last two years, Casey has seemed energized, mainly in defense of our country's tradition as a nation of immigrants. In 2017, when President Trump signed the Muslim travel ban, Casey rushed to the Philadelphia airport in a tuxedo from an event at the Academy of Music to show his support to Syrian families. He also spoke out against child separation at the southern border.
Even though Casey identifies as anti-abortion, he has a strong record defending a woman's right to choose and protecting Planned Parenthood. In his time in the Senate, he has taken on causes that often don't get headlines but are vitally important — such as allowing states to offer people with disabilities tax-exempt savings accounts, investing in repairs of bridges off the federal highway system, and requiring transparency and accountability in investigation of sexual assault cases on campuses. He recently led a bipartisan effort to push the Senate for more funding for states to tackle the opioid crisis.
Barletta's views on immigration are troubling. As a mayor, Barletta made his name cracking down on undocumented immigrants. His crowning achievement was an ordinance that penalized businesses landlords for dealing with undocumented immigrants, which was struck down by a federal judge. Barletta opposes sanctuary cities and argues that if families don't want to be separated, they shouldn't cross the border.
Barletta says that the biggest difference between him and his opponent is Casey's partisanship. But Barletta is one of Trump's most reliable votes in Congress — in the last two years, he voted with the president 98 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. Casey, on the other hand, voted with Trump 30 percent of the time.
Because of his ability to occasionally work across the aisle, and his willingness to defend human rights and America's legacy as a nation of immigrants, Bob Casey should continue to represent Pennsylvania in a third term. He is the right choice for Senate.